RICHMOND — The former Virginia legislator who commuted to the Capitol from jail earlier this year is accusing his party of trying to thwart his bid for state Senate, saying party leaders tossed out legitimate signatures he had collected to get his name included on the primary ballot.
“I think the Democratic Party has once again sullied their brand by trying to deny my right to get on the ballot,” former delegate Joseph D. Morrissey said Tuesday. “I am determined that the voters will make the choice, not Democratic Party bosses.”
With a checkered past that includes disbarment and courthouse fistfights, the longtime Henrico County Democrat was already one of the state’s most notorious legislators before his relationship with his teenage receptionist landed him in jail late last year.
He resigned his House seat upon his conviction on a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but immediately stood for re-election.
Democratic Party leaders limited participation in that primary to just 40 voters who were deemed to be party members in good standing — and the nomination went to someone else.
Morrissey then ran for the House seat as an independent and won easily. During the legislative session that took place in January and February, he lived at the jail but served in the Capitol by day on work release.
He completed his jail term in March, just in time to travel to Georgia to be present when the receptionist gave birth to a baby boy. (Morrissey has declined to say whether he is the father.)
Last week, Morrissey announced that he had moved to Richmond — meaning he had to give up his House seat — and would seek the Senate seat held by Rosalyn R. Dance (D-Petersburg).
He said he submitted 903 signatures to get on the primary ballot. He needed 250, but only 225 were certified as legitimate. Morrissey said he was told by party officials that some of his signatures were tossed because they were collected by a convicted felon. Morrissey said the person was charged with a felony 35 years ago but convicted of a misdemeanor.
Morgan Finkelstein, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said the party asked the City of Richmond’s registrar's office to certify the signatures. She noted that Morrissey was one of two candidates who did not collect enough signatures for that primary. The other was Derik Jones, a Richmond School Board member and son of Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones (D).
Without Morrissey, Dance has just one opponent in the primary, Del. Joseph Preston (D-Petersburg).
“We have applied consistent, transparent standards to all of our potential candidates when they file,” Finkelstein said. “The registrar’s office found that two candidates had insufficient numbers of legitimate signatures. Thus, the nominating committee unanimously agreed to not accept those candidates’ filings.”